Journal du Japon takes you to the East of France, to Strasbourg, to introduce you to Asumi Kiyohara, chef of the Yuki café restaurant. His credo: take pleasure in discovering authentic Japanese cuisine. Notice to those who have traveled to Japan or want to find out, dinner at Yuki Café Restaurant is “being in Japan”!
Strasbourg offers many dining options, including Japanese cuisine. You can eat the inevitable sushi and popular dishes in France such as ramen (broth noodles), tonkatsu (fried breaded pork), yakitoris (skewers), karaage (fried chicken) and takoyaki (octopus dumplings). But for the past few months, the leader Assume Kiyohara opened them Yuki cafe restaurant and offers Japanese cuisine that stands out from the usual offer in the Alsatian city. Son pari: share the taste of authentic and local Japanese cuisine.
On an April afternoon, an appointment was made at 4 Boulevard de Nancy to interview the chef and her friend Youssef Katiri.
Journal of Japan: Can you tell us about your journey?
Assume Kiyohara : My name is Asumi Kiyohara, I am from Osaka. I studied in Japan to become a nutritionist. I quickly include that to be a nutritionist you need to know how to cook. La cuisine française is known in Japan, but it is not that of the daily life of the French. I was interested in it because it differs from Japanese cuisine, it uses less salt.
Après mes études, I want to go to France to learn French cuisine. First, I looked for a school to learn to speak French. Moving to Paris would have been interesting because there are so many schools and a Japanese community, but the cost of housing and language schools was too high.
I especially liked Alsace because there was an affordable private language school and because the area is close to Germany. And even though it may be cold in the winter, I decided to move to Strasbourg in October 2006.
Did you then enroll in French cuisine?
Yes, I studied French for three years and then went to the Paris region for a year and a half to learn how to cook. Then I worked for a while in a French restaurant in the south of Norway. I came back to Strasbourg because I had friends there and I worked in the Japanese restaurant Shoon. But my naked student residence permit no longer allowed me to work in France, so I returned to Japan to apply for a trader visa this time.
On my return, I wondered about the relevance for a Japanese woman like me of cooking French, because I don’t know the taste of French cuisine as well. On the other hand, I know Japanese cuisine well and I thought I could show the French that Japanese cuisine is not just sushi and yakitoris. So I chose to open a Japanese restaurant.
You have opened the restaurant at 4 boulevard de Nancy on the outskirts of Strasbourg city center. Is it a strategic choice?
The rent is attractive compared to the area. I am lucky to have a large kitchen to have the necessary equipment. It’s a bit far from the center, but it doesn’t matter because I think my customers like my kitchen and they will move to this area.
Youssef Katiri: it is an economic choice in the beginning. The premises were taken before the Nancy Boulevard development work and the arrival of the tram. The neighborhood is changing and gentrification is taking place. Before, this place was a bakery and then a döner kebab. Instead of taking an expensive, smaller downtown location that needs to get results right away and under pressure, Asumi preferred a better value for money, taking the time to cook for others. and develop your own kitchen. His choice is rather paying off today.
Can you explain the interior design of the restaurant, because when we enter we have the feeling of being in Japan!
Youssef Katiri: it’s wanted (laughs). Japanese restaurants in Alsace or Germany are well known, and do not want to have a fake decoration. The emphasis is often on Asian decorations to give the feeling of change of scenery or exoticism. Here, someone who does not know Japan will not immediately have this feeling of being in Japan, but the clean, simple side of the materials used (especially the lime made in Alsace) makes you think. We have workers with a local architectural firm to bring the local level up and ensure compliance.
The piece of tatami mats is a bit special, it has been designed like a Japanese living room while not squatting, because in Europe we are not used to sitting in this way for a long time. The hall was designed by a Japanese architect, the materials were imported directly from Japan and there is a local menu that has made the arrangement.
Did you choose to make a “wabi” (short) and “sabi” (full) menu per week, knowing that you only open on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights?
Asumi Kiyohara: it’s a personal choice, because changing the menu every week is complicated, so I need time to work it out. I always wonder if the dish I think will be loved by the people of Strasbourg. Catering takes a lot of work, from morning to night. It is a very hard job if you open at noon and in the evening and I know that if I am stressed my work will be neglected.
I told myself that the main thing is to please me and please my customers. It limits the number of days the restaurant is open so that it can function properly and serve the best cuisine.
To prepare your dishes, do you supply in France and Japan?
I buy Japanese products from a supplier in Germany, especially Japanese rice, and online. For fresh produce, I source from local shops or local producers. I also grow plants like yuzu (citrus) and shiso (see our article on shiso) for example.
Japanese plate kitchen, but also include French products from this kitchen.
In fact, if I import most of Japan’s products to make authentic Japanese food, it’s not very good for the environment. So I try to buy as soon as I can locally and seasonally, for example the asparagus I cooked this week comes from Hoerdt (Bas-Rhin).
You offer a rather sake card provided and even sparkling shiso!
Youssef Katiri: it is a Japanese supplier that makes a direct connection between sake producers in Japan and the restaurant. The major causes are directly imported from Japan.
Asumi Kiyohara: I also offer a special “Gyotaku” wine made for a French-Japanese couple of Alsatian winemakers that goes well with the Japanese taste of the dishes that are served. He marries especially with sushi. The name of the company is Terres d’Etoilesin Ostheim near Colmar.
To conclude this interview, can you tell us what your future plans are?
I had planned to open the cafe in April, since it is “Yuki Café Restaurant”, but I didn’t have time. It would be a “cafe” half traditional and half western in which pastries and tea would be served. I’m still taking the time to think about this project.
Journal of Japan thanks Chief Asumi Kiyohara for accepting this interview. Book, meet on the restaurant’s website and follow social media:
Yuki cafe restaurant